[Book Review] Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

My second review for the #ShadowClarke project posted last week at the @csffanglia site. Here it is in all its unimpressed glory, although I recommend you make your way over to the site, at least to read the enjoyable comments.

*****

Good Morning, Midnight is a bit of a shortlist risk, as shadow jury conversations have proved. Ranging in complaints about too much lyrical sciencing to complaints about too much overt preciousness, overall, the general jury criticism toward the book has been along the lines of “too much too much.” And yet, the novel has been blurbed as a blend of Station Eleven and Kim Stanley Robinson– two supreme yet entirely different approaches to SF, flawed in their own “too much” ways (the first, a well-written, but literary carpet bagging of superficial SF tropes, the other, an over-lingering on most things, including the sublimation of ice). With comparisons like these, Good Morning, Midnight might be just the kind of “too much too much” I, and other Clarke readers, would relish. Besides, it has stars on the cover, a spaceship in the story, and is free of the usual, predictable pew-pew hijinks that tends to come with spaceship stories, so, for those reasons, it seems like something worth discussing within the context of possible Clarke contenders.

Good Morning, Midnight is about two corresponding perspectives on silence, isolation, and unacknowledged regrets. As Sully and her fellow crewmates return from their mission to Jupiter, all signals from Earth go silent. Meanwhile, Augustine, an aging astronomer, is the only person left at his research station in the Arctic after he stubbornly refuses an unexpected evacuation. Neither scientist knows what has happened to the rest of the earth, but now they find themselves navigating their respective silent voids, inside and out.

It sounds promising and poignant, but it’s considerably less than what the blurbs promise. Continue reading

[An Actual Book Review] The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo

Johanna Sinisalo’s The Core of the Sun is a tale about loss, in the form of a gender-stiffening social experiment wrapped in a family drama murder mystery, suffused with oppressive norms, self-delusional recounting, and fabulist nostalgia for a world that once was that actually never was. It’s the kind of novel that joins the ranks of extreme, performative, sociological SF, in the vein of Brunner, Ballard, and Pohl, and the feminist dystopias of Atwood, Russ, and Tiptree. It’s the kind of book that people will say doesn’t belong because a.) it isn’t needed in this age of post-women’s lib, b.) its agenda involves too much agenda, and c.) it isn’t science-y enough. But, as the list of authors cited above indicates, precedence invalidates these kinds of arguments.

Legislated gender is the core of the tale, where not far in our recent past, Finnish society has perverted its liberal roots, designing a padded cell utopia of well-cared-for and easily-labeled citizens. Termed a eusistocracy, the Latin essence of which basically means ‘it’s all good if you stay in your place,’ it’s a nation where women really do go to college to earn their M.R.S., where gender fraud is a thing, and where the mating market is subsidized, with government-sponsored beauty rituals and body-perfecting salons becoming cultural imperatives for women. In this altered Finland, there are four genders: femiwomen and mascos, and, barely tolerated, neuterwomen and minusmen, while all social, economic, and political efforts are geared toward cultivating the lifestyles, pairings, and reproduction of the former two groups, and suppressing the latter two groups.

(When put like that, defense for The Core of the Sun’s presence on my Shadow Clarke shortlist may be less about its scientific and speculative foundation, and more about whether it even qualifies as fiction.) Continue reading

The Torture of the Shadower, part 4: The first round of reviews!

This week’s torture is brought to you by the end of Spring Break. (Yes, it happens before spring even begins. That’s how we do things here in Arrakis.) Goodbye, beautiful afternoons of jogging around the neighborhood. Hello, A/C blasting office that forces me to wear sweaters in the summer.

The first round of reviews by the Clarke shadow jury are up. Here are the links, in case you missed them:

The Destructives by Matthew de Abaitua, reviewed by Nina Allan

Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley, reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, reviewed by Victoria Hoyle

The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, reviewed by me

Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller

A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna, reviewed by Nina Allan

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, reviewed by Paul Kincaid

The Gradual by Christopher Priest, reviewed by David Hebblethwaite

Azanian Bridges by Nick Wood, reviewed by Paul Kincaid

 

(By the way, you are allowed to comment on the shadow jury site. It’s encouraged!)

 

This barely scratches the surface of the number of reviews we have set out to do, so stay tuned!

 

A (very) late review of the 2015 Kitschies Red Tentacle Shortlist

Yesterday, I brought you my thoughts on the 2015 Kitschies Golden Tentacle shortlist (the newbie award). Today, I bring you my thoughts on the Red Tentacle shortlist (ie the established writer’s award).


This year’s breakneck pace between shortlist announcement and award ceremony made it impossible for most people to play along at home with The Kitschies’ search for the most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining speculative fiction. A full list of ten novels, five book covers, and five digital creations (one of which is another novel), is a lot to digest in a matter of weeks. Without a chance of making the deadline, I opted to string out my Kitschies reading for most of the year.

So, ten months later… I give you my impressions of the Kitschies Red Tentacle list. In short, this is a good list, notwithstanding a couple of odd inclusions.

I reviewed the Golden Tentacle list here.

The Red Tentacle list (the old hat veteran writer award) Continue reading

A (very) late review of the 2015 Kitschies Golden Tentacle Shortlist

This year’s breakneck pace between shortlist announcement and award ceremony made it impossible for most people to play along at home with The Kitschies’ search for the most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining speculative fiction. A full list of ten novels, five book covers, and five digital creations (one of which is another novel), is a lot to digest in a matter of weeks. Without a chance of making the deadline, I opted to string out my Kitschies reading for most of the year.

So, ten months later… I give you my impressions of the Kitschies Golden Tentacle list. In short, this is a very good list. Continue reading

September 2016 Reading Review

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I haven’t been as fastidious about my blog this month, partly because I got hung up on writing that stupid review of The Clone. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I think I’m running out of things to say about the schlock I’ve been reading– I’ve said it all before, others have said it all long before, and lately I’ve been more interested in reading those other people than just spouting off my ignorant drivel. Also, I’ve been restricting my post-writing time to a small window in the mornings, as this blog has been leaking into my weekend days more than I’d like.

Plus, the weather has been nice! It’s like we’re having an actual autumn this year and it’s only been like in the 80-somethings this month, which makes me want to be outside more.

Books Read and Blogged Continue reading